Readership Institute Releases 2008 Readership Study

The Readership Institute has released its 2008 study on readership trends of 100 newspapers, which proclaims that “readers have not left the building.”

The study (direct link to the PDF here), shows stability in many trends and some small readership declines, particularly in the age 18-24 demographic. The study suggests that most readership trends are either stable or slightly declining, a finding at odds with the amount of advertising dollars flying out of newspapers’ hands. The study’s authors say:

“The short answer is that reading customers aren’t deserting newspapers at anything approaching the rate that advertising customers are. […] Make no mistake: lots of people still want it and lots are paying attention to the local newspaper.”

Additionally, the study had some disappointing findings for news sites, including:

“62 percent of respondents said they had never visited the local newspaper’s Website, and only 14 percent said they had visited between the last seven to 30 days.”

“Readers are more engaged with print than with the Web site. Ratings for four experiences – “gives me something to talk about”, “looks out for my interests”, “ad usefulness” and “touches and inspires me” were significantly higher for the newspaper than for the site.”

At first glance, the study’s synopsis struck me as overly optimistic in light of the persistent circulation losses experienced by newspapers and large increases in American Internet usage (perhaps I’m biased because I’m an online guy?). However, Readership Institute managing director Mary Nesbitt says in the comments:

“It is a readership, not a circulation study. It rolls three dimensions of readership — frequency, time spent with the newspaper, and completeness of reading — into one score. Thus it measures how “occupied” people are (or are not) with the newspaper, not simply whether or not they looked at a newspaper. Other studies, equally valid, measure frequency only.”

Either way, I’m certainly looking forward to dissecting the study further.

[Readership Institute 2008 Readership Study]

[Hat tip to The Editors Weblog]

About Danny Sanchez

Danny Sanchez is the Audience Development Manager at Tribune's Sun-Sentinel.com and OrlandoSentinel.com. Danny has been with Tribune since 2005 in a variety of editorial, digital and product development roles in Hartford, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. He has also previously worked in the newsrooms of the Tampa Bay Times and The Miami Herald.
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